Category Archives: Ontario

Science March April 22nd and Climate March April 29th

This is going to be an interesting month. We have two marches less than a year after the first pronuclear march in June 2016 to keep nuclear plants open. March for Science Saturday April 22, 2017 and the Climate march April 29th

Ontario serves as an example of how coal can be eliminated with the right energy mix. Our three nuclear plants with 8 unit at Bruce Power, 6 of 8 units in Pickering and 4 units at Darlington enabled Ontario to fully replace the coal Ontario had been producing up until December 2013. I have my work cut out for me because a large number of those attending these marches are unaware of the role nuclear energy must play.

As you may already know I am writing a book named after this Energy Reality website about nuclear energy and the need for a grassroots movement. I have my crowdfunding effort to promote the book and share the ideas from the book. I also have begun co-hosting a podcast called the Ecomodernist Podcast You will find six podcasts so far. All of them providing a positive outlook on solutions to environmental problems we are all facing and ultimately responsible for fixing.

Thanks to the Power of Pickering Nuclear Plant We Replaced Coal

Pickering Nuclear plant went from a non-event to pre-event condition back in 2014. The not so “Clean Air Alliance” is trying to close down a perfectly good zero carbon energy source. The Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) would like to take credit for shutting down coal and now they think they can shut down Nuclear plants. Coal dominated a very large portion of Ontario’s energy mix for many years. The abundance of power was daunting. Nanticoke Coal plant at one time Generated 4000 MW of power. It was the largest coal plant in North America. In 1981 it consumed 35,000 tonnes of coal per day. In 2007 it emitted 17,887,649 tonnes of CO2. Thankfully Ontario’s abundant Nuclear Power and Hydro allowed it to replace all the coal plants (bigger than average) by 2014. Pickering and Ontario’s other nuclear plants are in the habit of reporting such non-events, in effect, practicing for reports of actual incidents with updates – should there ever be a serious incident.

The OCAA thinks the Pickering Plant poses a threat letting irrational fear win over. They support a foolish and potentially disruptive solution to go all renewable. New York State just made an important decision to keep it’s Nuclear Plants alive. How else can the States reach their emission content goals? Why should Ontario be any different. Try replacing 14% if Ontario’s power with renewable energy. It would be terribly expensive and wasteful.

These OCAA people resemble over 200 other green lobby and special interest groups who can’t even look at their shadow without fear.

The worse thing is that their ignorance of science is revealed by the fact that adapting their policies in a time of climate crisis can actually bring on the tipping point even faster.

They also claim they will close down natural gas which is laughable… no coal, no nuclear and now no natural gas. The renewables certainly cannot match that abundant supply of nuclear which runs at about 60% of Ontario’s energy.

What does OCAA claim as the saviour?

Apparently Quebec who has never offered to give Ontario any of their so-called abundant hydro power is supposed to have enough to share with Ontario when in fact they have shortages in winter as it is. The 1998 ice storm cause the worst blackout in Quebec’s history. That was due to lengthy power lines collapse from the weight of the ice caused by the ice storm. The same kind of expensive powerlines would be needed for transmission to Ontario. This hypothetical situation is not sustainable. See Steve Aplin article from 2011.

The hydropower-from-Quebec fantasy resurfaces in Ontario gas-industry propaganda

Steve Aplin:

“Unlike hydropower though, nuclear involves land use that is, by comparison, barely noticeable. For example, Ontario’s 18 nuclear reactors occupy a total of 23.4 square kilometers (Darlington occupies 480 hectares, or 4.8 square km; Bruce occupies 9.3 square km; and Pickering, also 9.3.) Their total installed capacity is 12,530 megawatts. So the Ontario nuclear land-use footprint works out to 0.186 hectares—about a fifth of an average size city block—per installed megawatt…”

“Quebec’s hydropower land use footprint is 177.8 hectares per megawatt (30,230 km2 is 3,023,000 hectares; divide that by 17,000 megawatts).”

“For every patch of land Ontario nuclear power requires, Quebec hydropower needs 952 times that. This, among other reasons, is why Parizeau favoured nuclear power.”

“I mention this because, every now and again, somebody floats the cockamamie idea that Ontario should start importing clean hydropower from Quebec. Some advocates of this fantasy are self-styled environmentalists who haven’t done their homework and crunched the easy numbers like I have done above. Because of an unexamined and comically off-base anti-nukery, they think that the Darlington nucelar station should be shut down and that its 25 billion annual kilowatt-hours of electrical energy output should come instead from the Belgium-sized man-made lake in northern Quebec.”

“Nor do they appear to have considered what it would take, engineering-wise, for the Quebec electric utility, Hydro Quebec, to wheel 25 billion annual kWh of energy into Ontario from that lake. Quebec already wheels huge amounts of that energy out-of-province: to the U.S. northeast. American customers are served with Quebec hydropower on long term contracts; that was why Quebec built the transmission lines to the U.S. in the first place. What about those customers?”

“None of the Ontario advocates of Quebec hydropower appears to have ever taken the matter up with… Hydro Quebec. I’m sure the utility might have interesting things to say.”

“No serious person believes Ontario will ever import such massive amounts of electric power from Quebec. So why the sudden spate of media articles taking it up?”

“Well, it’s all about money. Specifically, the money that can be made by the fossil fuel industry if Darlington, which is slated for refurbishment beginning in less than a year, is not refurbished.”

“The main cheerleader for Quebec-hydropower-to-Ontario is the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, a gas-industry lobby group. The OCAA’s aim is to replace Ontario zero-carbon nuclear plants with carbon-heavy gas-fired plants. Given that the current concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the global atmosphere is just about 400 parts per million (see Item A1, above), you’d wonder why an organization allegedly advocating for clean air would want to add to those 400 ppm.”

“The OCAA knows full well that the Quebec-hydropower-to-Ontario fantasy is just that—a fantasy. The OCAA is not actually advocating for Quebec hydropower to Ontario. What it really wants is business for its gas-industry clients. And those clients will get plenty of business if Darlington does not get refurbished. So it is striving mightily, with the cooperation of a mainstream media that today finds ad revenue increasingly scarce and gas-industry ad revenue increasingly valuable, to get us Ontarians to actually believe this Quebec-hydropower-to-Ontario nonsense. That way, they hope, we will be more amenable to letting Darlington, an enormously valuable clean-energy centre—and revenue generator for the people of this province—go idle. Yesterday the OCAA wanted us to believe that windmills and solar panels could do it. Today it’s Quebec hydropower. Tomorrow, who knows. Maybe a perpetual motion machine.”

“Jacques Parizeau got to see an example of nuclear’s vastly superior land-use footprint, right in his own province, and under his watch as PQ finance minister. During that tenure, Hydro Quebec built and commissioned Gentilly 2, a 635-MW CANDU 6 reactor. It was, until its premature shut-down in late 2012 (by another PQ government, sans Parizeau), Hydro Quebec’s biggest single generator.”

“The premature shutdown of G2 was undertaken by, as I said, a Parizeau-less PQ government. Parizeau disagreed with much of that government’s policies. I wonder if he disagreed with the G2 decision also.”

In a response letter to an article published in the Toronto Star by one of many antinuclear groups in Canada the President and CEO of Ontario Power Generation said this

“Re Too much trust in old nuclear plants, May 30”

“I read with interest the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) opinion piece about Pickering Nuclear. The only ‘fact’ in the article that I was able to verify is that ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was released by Led Zeppelin in 1971.”

“The six nuclear units at Pickering were built to very robust standards and are operating safely, to the highest performance standards. The electricity from the six operating units provides about 13 per cent of Ontario’s annual demand, is free of greenhouse gas emissions and comes at a cost lower than almost all other sources of energy. Continued operations will save Ontario customers $600 million and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by eight million tonnes over the 2020-to-2024 period.”

“Both Pickering and Darlington nuclear stations enjoy strong community support, and a recent survey indicated 85 per cent of those polled supported the continued operations of the Pickering station.”

“Ontario relies on nuclear power to provide 60 per cent of its electricity generation. The plants at Darlington, Pickering and Bruce have excellent performance and safety records. Nuclear is Ontario’s best option for cost-effective, GHG emissions-free, reliable, base-load generation and have been a critical resource in ensuring clean air for Ontarians. We look forward to our nuclear fleet continuing to be part of the solution in the battle against climate change.”

Jeffrey Lyash, president and CEO Ontario Power Generation, Toronto”

On the same page is a comment by Don MacKinnon:

“Monday’s anti-Pickering Nuclear Station Extension editorial diatribe by the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) is typical of their ‘dreamweaver’-like campaigns — heavy with the spectre of environmental disaster and fast and loose with the facts.”

“The Pickering Nuclear Station is licensed and its operations, including emergency preparedness, are overseen by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), an independent regulator. The CNSC has 70 years of experience and is highly regarded internationally.”

“Additionally, the Pickering Nuclear Station, owned by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), a provincial Crown corporation, routinely provides information and consults with local communities about the plant’s operations.”

“When the province approved OPG’s plan to pursue the continued operation of Pickering beyond 2020 to 2024, it noted that final approval would be required from the CNSC. Pickering would continue to employ over 4,500 people in Durham region and 8 million tonnes of greenhouse gases would be avoided. Yes, extending the operation of the Pickering Station is about clean air.”

“The OCAA claims that cheap, low-carbon electricity imports from Quebec offer a superior option, but those claims have been disproven by a number of highly credible analyses, including Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator. Billions of dollars would need to be invested to build and improve the transmission interties and transmission lines in Ontario and Quebec. Ontario currently exports low-carbon nuclear power to help Quebec meet its winter peak and refill its reservoirs. Even if Quebec could supply, large-scale electricity imports would mean tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars flowing out of Ontario.”

“The only real alternative to base-load 24/7 nuclear in Ontario is fossil fuel generation, and we believe the OCAA knows that. Less nuclear generation in Ontario would mean dramatic increases in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution at a time when the entire world is transitioning to a lower carbon environment.”

Don MacKinnon, President of the Power Workers’ Union, Toronto”

I believe the OCAA has ulterior motives as both Steve Aplin and Don MacKinnon suggested. When you look at other Clean-Air NGOs such as the Clean Air Task Force they have a logical rational point of view when it comes to nuclear energy. Look at New York’s recent decision to go with keeping the Nuclear Plants in their state alive. All that emission-free energy is just too valuable to pass up.

Additional Reading on the subject:

COP21 and what is missing from the table

Have you noticed the number of interested parties that offer no real solutions? Obama falls short. Justin Trudeau falls short. The climate marches are preaching renewables and conservation as their proposed solutions. There are no real solutions discussed. People should not imagine that by simply following politics and voting for what they think is the best party that it will make a difference. Following the science is far more important.

We need to look at what solutions are being proposed and seriously evaluate our best strategies. How many people understand that the biggest problem is coal? Yes energy from coal is cheap and abundant. The western world has depended on coal. Also keep in mind that Ontario would never have been able to replace coal without their nuclear plants replacing that reliable energy we all need to run our cities. Right now the overwhelming majority of the active groups who will show up at the COP21 and try to make their voices heard are short on solutions.

The way we view nuclear is also problematic. We need to stop letting people get away with saying “where do we store the waste?” and “nuclear is too expensive” and “what about Fukushima?” those myths have been proven wrong. We have a number of countries engaged in bringing forth nuclear reactors that will be able to re-use so-called nuclear waste. As for Fukushima, nobody died or will even get sick from the radiation released by the Fukushima accident. As for the the expense of building nuclear plants. It is related to the idea of perceived danger. As soon as the public understands through a little education what makes nuclear expensive we will see the costs come down. The nuclear industry is punished when it should be rewarded. What a backwards world. Getting the NRC and EPA to accept the Hormesis model rather than the “Linear No Threshold” model will also help lower prices since that would allow designs to be built without the above-and-beyond safety requirements being imposed.

I urge everyone to look at the energy sources and be honest in comparing their relative ability to solve how to replace coal. Obama modestly supports nuclear energy but has not added it to his COP21 strategy. Why not? Justin Trudeau will be doing the same. Can anybody explain why?

I know most people will give the usual responses about the so-called expense and danger of nuclear power. Please consider that Germany is adding coal plants because they were also under the influence of the renewable movement.

We have grown up with abundant energy and find it hard to understand that the emerging Eastern countries are not going to stop using coal because we tell them to. They are where we were at 70 years ago. Coal is still the cheapest. We need to figure out how to make nuclear power cheaper than coal. I believe that is totally possible with a focus on changing how people just need to educate themselves about radiation and the unfortunate truth that renewable energy will be impossible to meet the world’s energy demands.

So yes, we need to reduce carbon dioxide, but more than that, eliminate CO2 emissions. We need to be honest about the real outcomes of the very few nuclear accidents that have happened. Also come to terms that much of our misinformation comes from funded sources that are paid for by nuclear power’s competition. Also as James Hansen said recently. Let’s be honest about the harm being done by fossil fuel sources for energy. When it comes to climate change and ocean acidification “greed” is not good.

October 2015 Letter to Barack Obama

Dear President Barack Obama

Please consider that the steps to solve climate and ocean change needs to start with a genuine inquiry into energy. America used to be the leaders in nuclear energy. There has been a serious lack of effort to enable an affordable pathway to nuclear energy. The misconceptions cause too many people to not even begin to inquire about their assumptions. The so-called dangers are blown out of proportion causing entire countries to suffer economically for poor decisions. Germany, Italy and Japan come to mind. The best models I know of are France and Ontario, Canada who do not use coal at all.

Our future literally depends on making nuclear energy the primary source of power globally. America use to be the example for the rest of the world. It would be arrogant to think the rest of the developing world can learn from American policies that reflect a lack of energy knowledge.

I am a musician with a passion for the environment. I have learned to appreciate the role of energy in solving the world’s problems. After years of following scientific writings and sharing information with others I came to realize that most people (that includes all kinds of people) fail to understand the significance of 200 years of industrial production of carbon dioxide. It has been steadily accumulating faster than the environment can handle. Now at approximately 400 parts per million is certainly a big factor. The oceans warming and becoming more acidic is going to trigger mass extinction in your lifetime. Some say the mid 2030s.

It is no longer acceptable to view climate change as being about simply weather extremes. We are facing an evolutionary threat that requires mitigating the 1.5 trillion tons of backlog of CO2 that has been building for 200 years making the oceans more acidic and the atmosphere hotter.

We need to view Ocean Acidification and Climate Change as twin tragedies. Conservation and renewable energy will not be nearly enough to remediate the problem. Nuclear energy is our only hope for reducing coal plant usage. One proposed method to reducing acidification is to use nuclear plants to heat limestone to produce lime and add it to the oceans which would give the plankton, the pteropods, the diatoms and all life that depend on calcium and carbon to naturally sequester carbon and after dying fall to the ocean floor where the carbon belongs.

So you see our old vision of an atomic age with energy too cheap to meter might have been the correct path. Let’s begin the process by educating your staff about energy density. The environmentalists who now embrace nuclear energy as a solution understand this.

I can recommend several scientists who would be glad to conduct seminars to get people up to date.

Thanks Rick Maltese
647-379-9655 (recommends a nuclear power dominated policy and limited use of renewable – and energy usage reduction)

Note: not the more popular
(unfortunately they have misguided and destructive policies)

Perception Versus Reality

If we try to stay current with what’s going on in the world we find ourselves constantly faced with sorting out how others often fail to see the reality of things. But of course, depending on your sources, getting to the truth is harder because in the explosion of information there is deluge of misinformation available. Finding the full truth can set you free. I will limit my writing to my own personal experiences.

A big eye opener, I had not too long ago, was in a Facebook chat with a passionate young man who called himself a human rights activist. I was trying to persuade him that Ontario’s energy bills were higher because of subsidies for renewables such as wind and solar. He was clearly very smart and articulate. Still, he disagreed.

He wanted to inform me that nuclear energy was bad because the uranium mining it required was doing harm to the environment. His take on it was that nuclear power was run by the big bad corporations and that they were interested in profits at the expense of the people, especially the first nations people. I could not help but wonder about the enormous benefit Ontario experiences as a result of our nuclear plants. The good that a nuclear plant does far outweighs the harm the mining does.

But after digging more into the subject I discovered that mines and power plants have consequences and their proximity to valued natural habitat going back just 25 years has a dark history with regard to the wishes of the First Nations people. Consultation has been missing from the process of establishing mining and power plant operations.

As recent as 50 years ago consultation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis regarding mining activities was nonexistent. There has been a significant improvement and in recent years there are clear indications from Ontario Power Group (OPG) that dialogue has improved. But what’s interesting is that the only active uranium mine currently in Canada is in Saskatchewan. The world’s biggest uranium mines are in Kazahkstan, Canada and Australia. Canada’s worst health impacts to the indigenous people go back to the 1930s right up to 1962 in Deline, Northwest Territories.

It is a violation when you show up in someones backyard uninvited. It is invasive when you start digging without permission and without any attempt to educate the people about the dangers or benefits. All of that has changed and the rules were laid out in 1995. Now that protocols have been established and consultation has been started what needs to be communicated more often is that the benefits of uranium mining and nuclear energy far outweigh the costs. That means economically, environmentally and humanely. The risks may be small but when the perception of the risks are high then dialogue is needed and the First Nations groups were not getting that information or communication. Who handles marketing for the nuclear industry?

From the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) website they say (see footnote pdf):

“…Uranium exploration poses the same low risks to public health or the environment, as any exploration methods (such as drilling small core samples). It does not significantly modify the natural environment. Uranium exploration presents a very low risk of increasing radiation or radon exposure to the public and to the environment…”

“…The CNSC ensures streams, lakes and rivers downstream of uranium mining projects are safe for people, plants, fish and other animals…”

“…The CNSC assesses monitors and tracks licensees’ environmental performance to verify that releases to the environment are not harmful and are below regulatory limits. Since 1994, an ongoing monitoring study in northern Saskatchewan has assessed the cumulative impacts of radon, radionuclides and heavy metals on the local environment. Results have shown that uranium mines have no effect on radon levels, and that uranium, radium-226, lead-210 and polonium-210 levels in fish were often below detection levels. When measurable, these levels were no different around mine sites when compared to those at both nearby and remote reference sites…”

In recent years Quebec, British Columbia and Nova Scotia have placed moratoriums on uranium mining after investigations into Uranium Mining practices appeared largely based on pressure from human rights groups. These groups demand inquiries and reports are made but typically lack the scientific inquiry and they ignore the properly conducted scientific studies of already existing reports made by the CNSC.

There has been successful antinuclear activity in affecting change. Canada and the US both have their share of opposition to all things nuclear. The majority of cases where restrictions have occurred are due to emotional reactions based on outdated information and antinuclear rhetoric that ignores the successes in upgrades and regulations that apply to all current uranium mining in North America in effect since the 1990s.

Clearly the discussion with the young activist had a positive effect on me. I researched the topic. But I scored a few points too. He agreed that closing down all the coal plants in Ontario was something to be proud about. The point he did not grasp was that nuclear power was the main reason that stopping coal was even possible. He also failed to realize that Ontario would not be able to maintain its low carbon footprint without nuclear plants. He kept throwing at me the line about keeping this sustainable. I tried to explain that wind and solar farms are not sustainable. That was a tough one to crack.

If the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining in the idealistic world of renewable energy lovers what energy source comes to the rescue? Well in Ontario it happens to be natural gas. The same is true for other parts of the world especially where natural gas is easy to come by.

What is interesting is that nuclear power could do it all alone. But to humour the pro-renewable camp let’s try to understand why Europe has had load following reactors and North American reactors don’t. The punitive attitude towards nuclear would never let modifications take place without a massive review process. Consequently we don’t even try for new designs. So, carbon emitting natural gas wins by default because our system is still out of date and bases their decisions on a dogmatic approach to radiation dangers that have been proven to be overly conservative.

In Germany coal is winning that role where they foolishly started shutting down their nuclear reactors. But the hardest part to grasp is that if wind and solar were not part of the strategy to start with you would not need to find energy to replace the momentary losses of wind and solar power. So the perception that a significant risk exists outweighs the facts and decisions are made that have serious consequences economically and environmentally.

I noticed that my adversary and I resorted to our areas of expertise and I eventually realized our agendas had completely different foci and prevented us from winning each other over to our own side. It was clear to me that this individual was more concerned about the rights of individuals than about the best way to save the ecology of the planet. I did have a moment where I got him to recognize that nuclear might have a role in keeping things sustainable. I guess that was an accomplishment.

There was a lesson here. If your adversary calls themselves an activist you better be prepared to anticipate their bias and try to frame any new arguments you have from a perspective that they understand. I realized that my argument should have been that clean water and clean air are human rights and that nuclear energy happens to be one of the best ways to accomplish the goals of keeping the air and water clean.


Carbon Pricing in Ontario set for Spring 2015

I hear this and automatically wonder why now just after shutting down coal plants. My other concern is that electric cars don’t have charging stations so that seriously affects EV car sales. Maybe the taxes collected should go towards these charging stations.

Ontario to Unveil Carbon Pricing Plan this Spring

Toronto needs reliable power. Apply pressure at all gov. levels to upgrade.

Not sure what is worse. Sitting alone at a table for two in a very noisy bar waiting for my phone to charge or going home to a dark apartment with a flashlight and candles.

I am sitting at one of the noisiest bars in Toronto. I am here on a Sunday night because the power is out for the 4th time in 3 years. Yet this bar, across the street from where I live has all its power all day. Why do the stores along Bloor on both sides all have power? The power infrastructure in Ontario is seriously out of date.

The temperature is hovering around freezing but will get colder tomorrow. Many of the locals have so much ice on their cars that they gave up on de-icing.

I spoke to Steve Foster, my new friend from Barrie, who has power yet 300 thousand others need to wait a few days while Christmas is around the corner.

Steve said his city has no visible power lines (meaning they have been wisely buried underground). Why we continue to suffer 19th century style inconveniences has to do with mismanaged government at all levels.

Extreme weather is no longer a freak event. We should expect these events to happen. I see no reason why we should suffer or worse, have our lives threatened. The cold, if not prepared for properly, can be lethal. We need to change our power grid. Forget about a “smart” grid. Just a working reliable grid would help enormously. We now know that if power lines are vulnerable to falling tree branches during ice storms that we would be better off burying the lines. Who can monitor when an where trees are growing?

We also need to update our power facilities so that they don’t flood in extreme weather like what happened July 2013. What is really ironic is that I’m sitting right across from a wall of 100 year old enlarged black and white photos of my neigbourhood. If it was 1913 I might have electricity right now.

Our times have changed considerably. Yet we still have power lines above ground through most of Toronto. We need to change our grid infrastructure. Forget about “smart” grids. Let’s start with reliable grids. We now know that power lines are vulnerable to ice storms.

A series of Hydro-Quebec high voltage towers near St-Bruno, Que., south of Montreal that collapsed after a severe ice storm hit the southwest Quebec January 1998. The storm left over one million households in the Quebec Provence without of electricity. Jacques Boissinot/CP PHOTO

Toronto’s first electric company started up 130 years ago. It ran on boilers. 20 or so years later Niagara Falls generated power to the city. 60 years after that nuclear power was added. But 50 years of nuclear and we still have power lines above ground.

How much business is lost on account of power failures? Each year the US loses over $100 Billion due to power failures. Imagine Ontario’s losses. Besides robbing us of our rights to normal comforts we also lose business. Our power infrastructure is also expensive because we are forced by law to include wind and solar energy into our grid. We need to subsidize the unreliable, natural gas dependent so-called “renewables” because of a perceived need for an all of the above energy mix. Our energy bills are higher because of an idealist yet proven to fail method of powering the grid. Germany now has the highest electricity rates in Europe because they have decided to go green and discontinue nuclear energy. Germany has been forced to increase the building of coal plants to make up for the lost nuclear energy. Italy no doubt will face the same consequences. Just like California who shut down San Onofre Nuclear Plant over irrational fears over a possible accident. An interesting fact is that worst ice-storm in Ontario’s history did not affect the hydro plants at all.

With three levels of government having elections in the near future it is now a good time to put pressure on them to upgrade our power system. i.e. put power lines underground and make the power stations flood proof and allow new build of nuclear to replace the plants that will be decommissioned because of age.